Sunday, 7 March 2021

Blair5 - The Precipice and Crash

It's all been leading up to this.

By now the agents have been cooperating with the King for some time, to their mutual benefit. However the King has feet of clay, and that's about to become a problem. This should start with some kind of personal reversal followed immediately by temptation, with the reversal out in the open and the temptation hidden, to be revealed when it's least convenient.

Exactly what that reversal is will depend on the nature of the King. The Politician suffers some political reversal and is banished to the outer reaches; something like the Department of Administrative Affairs, say, a career-ender for almost anyone. The Financial Mogul might see their business empire collapse, or it might be something more personal; the son in the coma finally dies. The Tech Guru's Dot-Com finally bombs. The Priest's campaign for a bishopric fails at the first hurdle. Or it could be something else entirely, related to events in your game. 

Whatever it is, it happens in the open for all the world to see. The temptation is hidden. The Conspiracy reaches out, and this time the King takes the bait - or perhaps just seems to. Whichever it is, the agents find out and have to decide how much they trust the King after what's happened. Trust, like double-edged swords, cuts both ways. Perhaps the King feels they can no longer trust the agents, not completely. The King might feel guilty about being tempted and try to keep it from the agents at all costs, or perhaps the King's beginning to wonder if the agents are loyal to the King or the Conspiracy. 

Thus the King sets up what amounts to a department of oversight; someone or some entity to watch over the agents' every move. The King wants to be absolutely certain the agents are to be trusted. Or perhaps the King is setting up some level of plausible deniability, so the King can publicly betray the agents and keep clean hands. "I had no idea what was being done in my name. but thank God I set a watchdog on them to gather evidence of their betrayal!"

Meanwhile external events are taking on a life of their own. The case for war in Iraq is gathering steam, and Blair's doing everything he can to help Bush. Alastair Campbell's putting together what will become known as the Dodgy Dossier.  Dr. David Kelly, the weapons expert and former head of the Defence Microbiology Division at Porton Down, dies under circumstances best described as cloudy; nobody knows at the time whether it's suicide or murder. Those who favor murder claim it's because Dr. Kelly knew too much about how the Dodgy Dossier was put together. 

  Sourced from AFP

Protestors are flooding the streets of London, trying to stop the rush to war - and the government ignores them. The decision's already been made. It was made long before, in Washington; Blair's just along for the ride at this point, though he probably doesn't see it that way. 

From the Conspiracy's perspective this is great news. Exactly why this is depends on the nature of the Conspiracy. Mutants see a chance to spread the infection, Damned to corrupt the great and good, Alien to gather resources and Supernatural to glut themselves on rivers of blood. However the Conspiracy, like Blair, the King, and probably the agents, is going to be disappointed. This isn't a moment of triumph; it's a tragedy, and whether it's a revengers tragedy or one of Shakespeare's slightly less blood-drenched affairs, there is always collateral damage. Nobody gets what they want. 

But everybody's on the make. 

This is the precipice. In theory the agents or any of the main players could pull back from the brink. It's the same precipice that the great powers have been dancing on since Mutually Assured Destruction became part of the human experience. Some can dance on the edge of the precipice and come out ok, even better than they were before. Most won't. 

If Edom exists within this narrative but isn't a focal point thus far, for instance, then these early years are when Edom does very well, and begins to put together what will become Operation Montseir. Anyone interested in, or in a position to, cream off some of the billions of dollars flowing into the Iraq conflict will do very well. Personal rapid advancement, professional rapid advancement, all can be had so long as you're willing to lie to get it.

Of course, odds are Montseir ends badly for Edom. Those who play with the truth to get what they want often end up burnt.

The agents are going to have to decide how altruistic they are, and how far they're willing to go to stop the Conspiracy.  If they genuinely are willing to sacrifice everything then they might be able to win a kind of victory, say by manipulating the powers that be into seeing the Conspiracy as an outgrowth of terrorism - broadly the same objective Edom pursues with Montseir. 

This can involve some very difficult moral dilemmas. Say that the murder of your campaign's version of Dr. Kelly is deliberately orchestrated to ensure the UK goes to war, and your agents know they need this to happen to get the resources they need to take on the Conspiracy. Or say that the bombing on 7/7 is something that the King, or the agents, believes has to happen for everything else to fall into place. What do your agents actually do?

I was in London for 7/7, but I haven't any stories to tell. My main memory of that day is sitting on the Underground for what felt like forever before they let us out of the tube station. I couldn't even tell you now whether it was London Bridge, Bank, Canary Wharf, or one of the stops inbetween, but it would have been roundabout there as that was my route.  We didn't know anything about it until much later. Our main concern at that point was to get from point A to point B, and like typical Londoners we were all confident we knew how to do that. Little did we know the entire system had shut down. Shank's mare for most of us, at that point.

London afterward went into a state of paranoid lockdown for months. Wherever you went, whatever you did, there were extra security procedures. I recall going to the Soame Museum and having my bag searched, something that hadn't happened before, and thinking, first, that you'd have to be a funny sort of terrorist to target the Soame, and second, if I did have a bomb in my bag I doubt the elderly gent on the door could do anything about it other than burst into tears. But that's by the way.

7/7 is a kind of crescendo; it happens in Blair's third and final term, and is probably the most memorable event of that term. Other things happen; perhaps the most politically damaging is the cash-for-honors scandal. However Blair by this point is soiled goods, and so is the King in this narrative. Whatever happened before they're a third-rate power now, hanging on by their fingertips. The Tech Guru has blown most of their influence and all of the money in a Dot-Bomb, the Financial Mogul has been ousted from the Board of their own company, the Politician is well and truly on the outside and might no longer be in politics, the Priest may have been defrocked.  

How to end this? With a Crash.

I favor a Duchess of Malfi-esque bloodbath. Playwright John Webster is one of the best-remembered names in Jacobean tragedy, but the basic point is this: everyone seeks vengeance for slights actual and imagined, everyone is tainted, everyone dies, some of them go mad before they die. The average Revenger's Tragedy has a cast list of about fifteen, more or less, and if three of them survive to the end credits it's a bleedin' miracle. 

The King should not be one of them. The main Conspiracy face should not be one of them. One or more agents should probably get the chop. In fact, if ever there was a moment for a Blake's 7 endgame, this is it. 

As a backdrop I'd use the investigation into the 7/7 bombers, which leads to arrests in 2007 - the last years of Blair's premiership. As a cover for hunting vampires - or enemies of the state - this is ideal. It's also a hunt with tragic consequences, though an all-in Operation Kratos shoot-to-kill tactical philosophy is broadly the kind of thing the agents have probably already been doing in their own investigations. As an aside, I've often wondered whose bright idea it was to name the Operation after God of War. Kratos does have classical roots but I very much doubt that was the first image that sprang to mind.  

However you end it, it's not final death for the Conspiracy any more than Blake's 7 manages to kill off the Federation. The Conspiracy may be crippled, and some of its more notorious members staked, but the fight continues. 

Someone else will have to pick up the torch.

That's it for the series! Next time, something completely different.



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